Let us prepare a human-centric Gen Alpha

Let us prepare a human-centric Gen Alpha

By: Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

In time, one after another generation inherits the control of the world. In reality, however, it is a bit complicated because at least four generations of demographic cohorts may coexist in one era.

According to their year of birth, the current world population consists of the silent generation (1928–1945), the Baby Boom Generation i.e., the Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennial Generations or Gen Y (1981-1996), Generation Z i.e., Gen Z, iZen or Zoomers (1997-2010), and Generation Alpha (2010-).

Surely the silent generations and the Boomers are not active in the control of the world at present. That gives GenX and Gen Y the lead to control the current world – who are also holding the responsibility to nurture Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

Soon GenX will go in silence. Then Gen Y and Gen Z will take the lead not only to control the world but also the responsibility to prepare Gen Alpha and perhaps Genβ who are yet to arrive on earth.

Albeit no two generations have had a wrestling match in a public arena to grip control, the transition is not easy. In almost every household, parents struggle to coach their offspring who are of an “advanced” generation.

The youngest generation that we have now is Gen Alpha. The oldest of the Gen Alpha is approximately 10-12 years old. By the time they were born, the world had reached the edge of entering the era of IR 5.0, where man and machines are expected to work together.

This is nothing new for Gen Y and Gen Z. Going through IR 4.0, Gen Y and Gen Z are familiar with machine-aided industrialized society. In fact, dependency on automated industrialization reached a peak by the time Gen Alpha started breathing industrially polluted air.

Given the period, it is the Gen Alpha who will thrive through IR5.0. Amidst the threat of the anticipated arrival of “singularity”, IR 5.0 is aimed to re-establish a human-centric society. Hence, a radical shift is expected from IR 4.0 to IR 5.0 where focus from economic value and welfare will turn respectively towards societal value and wellbeing.

The foundation of a human-centric society with social value and well-being will require more human interaction – an interaction between man and man preferably without machine mediation. This is where Gen Alpha might lose control of their grip on controlling the future – as they will be facing AI-powered automation – if they are not prepared well.

If IR 5.0 is sustained, then those who are able to become more human-centric, resilient, and sustainable will likely be in command of the future and those who fail to keep up will fall behind.

With the rising pandemic of digital communication resulting in the least ever human interaction, the Gen Alpha might have no clue about the values and essence of human interactions.

At the same time, if the current trend of supervised spoon-feeding protective culture continues, the growing Gen Alpha will continue losing their ability to assess and manage risk independently. Furthermore, being glued to digital entertainment, the growing Gen Alpha lacks adventurous outdoor activities impacting their mental health and overall wellbeing. These are not good signs to expect a human-centric society headed by the Gen Alpha.

By the time the first wave of Gen Alpha will reach adulthood by the 2030s, the world population of just under nine billion will have the highest-ever proportion of the aged population over 60. Will the Gen Alpha be able to shoulder the burden of the aged population in the future human-centric society?

In fact, GenX and Gen Y have been tackling a similar challenge of shouldering the aged population for the last few decades at a national scale such as in China and Japan. Needless to say, the growth and survival of those nations have been heavily dependent on running their economy by investing in other countries.

However, if the challenge of the aged population prevails worldwide, as is going to be faced by the Gen Alpha, things will not be as easy as they appear to be in China or Japan.

On one hand, Gen Alpha will have smaller families, delayed marriage and childbirth as well, and suffer from higher rates of infertility, on the other hand, older generations are expected to have longer life spans. This will make a smaller proportion of Gen Alpha taking care of a huge aged population from the older generations.

As predicted, Gen Alpha might be the most formally educated, the most technology-driven, and the wealthiest generation ever. Yet that might not make things easier for them to face a human-centric society in IR 5.0, unless they value and carry the culture of human interactions.

Before Gen Alpha gets to inherit the world, their earlier generations, Gen Y and Gen Z have to prepare them for it. The focus of that preparation must be human-centric too. Then the nurturing of a human-centric Gen Alpha is in the control of Gen Y and Gen Z.

The author is the Associate Dean (Continuing Education), Faculty of Dentistry, and Associate Member, UM LEAD, Universiti Malaya. He may be reached at [email protected]

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